The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
Such texts as this ought to terrify us. For they speak of religious people and of a religious nation, and of a fearful mistake which they were making, and a fearful danger into which they had fallen.
I. Isaiah tells the religious Jews of his day that their worship of God, their church-going, their Sabbaths, and their appointed feasts were a weariness and an abomination to Him. That God loathed them and would not listen to the prayers which were made to Him. That the whole matter was a mockery and a lie in His sight. These are awful words enough—that God should hate and loathe what He Himself had appointed; that what would be, one would think, one of the most natural and most pleasant sights to a loving Father in heaven—namely, his own children worshipping, blessing, and praising Him—should be horrible in His sight.
II. The text should set us on thinking, Why do I come to church? Because it is the fashion? Because I want to hear the preacher? No; to worship God. To adore God for His goodness, and to pray to Him to make us good, is the sum and substance of all wholesome worship. Then is a man fit to come to church, sins and all, if he carry his sins into church not to carry them out again safely and carefully, as we are all too apt to do, but to cast them down at the foot of Christ's cross, in the hope (and no man ever hoped that hope in vain) that he will be lightened of that burden, and leave some of them at least behind him.
C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 51.
References: Isaiah 1:13.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 365. Isaiah 1:16.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 263. Isaiah 1:16, Isaiah 1:17.—J. Keble, Sermons from Advent to Christmas Eve, pp. 424, 435, 446; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 228; D. Burns, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 83.
Isaiah 1:16-18As early then as the time of Isaiah we find the doctrine of the reformation of character dependent on forgiveness of sin distinctly taught.
I. The demand made. (1) The nature of the demand. It is for a reformation of practice. Put in one word, it is Reform. This is the one Divine call to fallen man. At one time it is an old commandment, at another a new one. Whether it be faith or love, hope or patience, that are enjoined, they are all to issue in the moral elevation of man's character. (2) The word "learn" suggests a further thought, namely, the ground of this demand for reform. The ground of the demand is the perversity of the human will. (3) Consider the justice of the demand. It is God who makes it. But He could not have made it unless it were just to do so; nor would He have made it unless it were possible for man to meet it.
II. How to meet God's demand for reform. (1) The answer of nature. The belief in the ability of man to reform himself is founded either on ignorance of the real nature of his moral condition, as was the case in the pagan world, or on a deliberate refusal to recognise the truth when it is presented concerning that condition, as was the case in Judaism, and is the case at the present day with those who persuade themselves to a belief in the infinite intrinsic capability of human nature. (2) The answer of grace. A power from without is absolutely necessary to enable man to meet the demand for reform. This power is God's forgiveness. (a) Pardon is an inducement to repentance, which is the first step in the reformation of character, (b) Pardon removes, or rather is itself, as its name implies, the removal of sin. When sin itself is removed in forgiveness, all its consequences, too, will soon vanish; and lightened of our burden, we shall feel free and ready to undertake the duties of the new life.
R. E. Morris, The Welsh Pulpit of To-Day, p. 295.
Isaiah 1:18What are a few of the leading lines of God's instruction to the soul?
I. He teaches through conscience. Conscience is a "necessary idea." Nothing is so certain as that; from east to west, from north and south, comes testimony to that fact. The poems of Homer, the awful hints and warnings of the tragic poets of Greece, the religious teachings of the farthest East, the ethical form of the strong Egyptian faith in immortality,—all combine to record the existence of this "necessary idea." Let each of us obey the invitation by keeping an ear ready for the warnings of conscience; let us lose no time. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord."
II. The soul is instructed by the providence of God. The Bible, from beginning to end, is ever exhibiting this blessed truth. The beautiful stories of the earlier patriarchs, the incidental episodes (such as that sweet picture of dutiful devotion in the Book of Ruth), the proclamations of the Prophets, the tender verses of the Psalms, as well as the whole history of the chosen people, conspire to witness to the consoling fact that "the Lord careth for His people." To learn, with ready mind, the lessons of Divine providence is to listen to the Divine invitation, "Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord." Among His many lessons, surely there are two that He would teach us: (1) the blessing of a bright and patient spirit in those who are trying to serve God; (2) seek earnestly God's guidance in all times of difficulty, and confidently trust in Him.
III. God instructs the soul of the creature by the revelation of Jesus Christ. What does Jesus Christ teach? (1) In His example, as exhibited in the Gospel, He shows us a righteousness so transcendent that it corroborates the teachings of conscience, a course of action of such unvarying tenderness that it illustrates and manifests the providence of God. (2) He gives the most vivid, the most appalling, revelation of human sin; but with it, what conscience could never do of the most loving, most complete forgiveness to the penitent, and the brightest hope (after sorrow) as to human destiny, in the tragedy—the love-marked tragedy—of the Passion. (3) And beyond that, He displays to us a prospect and a power of attainment to the heights of spiritual longing, by revealing the method and confirming the promise of the implanting of His own life, of His own image, ever more and more fully in the soul of His creature, which is the daily, hourly work of God's blessed Spirit in those who diligently seek Him.
W. J. Knox-Little, Manchester Sermons, p. 1.
I. God, having made this proposition, proceeds on the assumption that He knows Himself to be right in this case.
II. God proceeds on the assumption that man ought to be prepared to vindicate his conduct by reasons.
III. The sinner is invited to take his case to the fountain-head. It is God who invites us to state the case directly to Himself.
IV. From a proposition of this kind, what can I infer but that God's purpose is, in making it, to mingle mercy with judgment?
V. The sinner is left absolutely without excuse.
Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 49.
References: Isaiah 1:18.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 366, and vol. xxii., No. 1278; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 213; J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 33; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 117; S. Cox, Expositions, 3rd series, p. 427; R. W. Evans, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 193. Isaiah 1:22-26.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 228. Isaiah 1:31.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 207.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me.
The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.
Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward.
Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.
From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.
Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.
And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah.
To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.
When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts?
Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.
Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them.
And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.
Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil;
Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.
Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water:
Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them.
Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies:
And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin:
And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city.
Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.
And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed.
For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen.
For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water.
And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them.